A GOLD STAR FAMILY IN THE MAKING
It's shortly before midnight and I just got a message from my daughter, who is stationed in Germany as a supply clerk with the Army, that she's gotten orders to deploy within a week to "a place I can't tell you." Her husband, a security policeman in the Air Force stationed nearby, is also deploying about the same time, also to "somewhere." They were supposed to be coming home for leave next month to visit family. Their leaves were cancelled.
It doesn't take a genius to figure this one out.
I was lucky. I spent twenty one years in the military and never actually saw combat. I once looked out an airplane window and saw a bank of clouds that someone told me was Vietnam. Despite volunteering to be deployed, I spent Desert Storm in Germany translating for a contracting office. The only time I was on the receiving end of anything done in anger was in a bar fight in Berlin.
Now I have a child about to go to war. In today's style of military operations, there are no "front lines." With missiles that reach 300 miles; with nerve gas and biological weapons that could be deployed in hundreds of ways, there's no safety in being back "in the rear." If my daughter is within five hundred miles of Baghdad, her butt is in danger. Hell, if she were in Germany, she'd be in danger. I'm worried shitless about her already and she hasn't even packed her duffle bags (if the still use duffle bags in the army).
My daughter, like the tens of thousands of other men and women in the service being deployed in preparation for what we have to assume is an attack on Iraq, doesn't ask whether the war is right or wrong. (I don't know how she really feels.) She didn't ask for a "morality escape clause" when she raised her hand almost four years ago. She's just going, and I know she will do her best wherever she goes. So will the other tens of thousands of women and men on their way to the desert. That's what you do when you join the service: you serve. The theory is that your civilian and military leaders put their heads together and have a Higher Purpose when they send you forth. And you believe that. When you stop believing that, you have another Vietnam.
I thought Saddam Hussein was a madman in 1989. I thought he was a nutball on 9/11 (even though there is still no evidence that he had any involvement, other than cheering from the sidelines). I thought he was a demon after the State of the Union address. He needs to go -- along with a number of other very scary figures in the world. But why can't we convince the rest of the world of this?
If Saddam Hussein is the nasty guy I believe he is, my daughter should be working and fighting in the desert (or wherever she is going) with Franz Schmidt, Rene Dubois, Scragger O'Toole, Mehmet Tarkanian and Ilya Pushkin. She shouldn't be doing this alone. But George Bush is making her go to the desert by herself. Right now, it looks like if she is killed, she's going to die on her own, for Bush's own reasons, with nobody else in the world to stand there with her. And if she dies alone, I will hold him accountable.
Although I am not happy about the possibility of losing a daughter, I won't object for a moment to her being deployed. I'm not going to advise her to go AWOL, and I know she wouldn't go. She volunteered, and I'm proud of her for it. But if she has to die, let it be for the good of the world, with the cooperation of the world, and not because one man in one country says it ought to happen.
In the meantime, in the old tradition, there will be two gold stars in my window.
My friend Scooter, an excellent history student, points out that the traditional stars in the window were blue unless one of your family was killed in combat. So let's not rush things. Blue they shall be.
SECOND UPDATE, 2/1/03
I just found out that my daughter and her husband will be allowed leave this week to return to the States, so long as they can be back to their duty stations within 24 hours. That's encouraging. I don't know what this means for the Big Picture, but I'm glad she can come home for a little while.